Earlier this month, Angela Ponce beat 20 other women to win the title of Miss Universe Spain. The 26-year-old is the first transgender woman to compete in the global Miss Universe pageant.
Now, she’s become a role model for trans kids and is using her voice to speak up for trans issues.
Although the location and dates for this year’s contest have not yet been released, Ponce is already planning on using the stage as a platform to raise awareness about issues that affect trans people.
“If my going through all this contributes to the world moving a little step forward, then that’s a personal crown that will always accompany me,” Ponce told The Associated Press in Madrid.
Madrid has just celebrated a series of week-long Pride events where the teme of this year’s celebration was a call for equality and recognition of non-binary individuals. Ponce participated in the parade, sharing a video on her Instagram with the caption, “Today I march to remember that I am not just an ‘I’, I am also a ‘We’. And we march with pride.”
In mid-June, the World Health Organisation declassified gender dysphoria as a mental health disorder- a monumental step forward for gender non-binary and transgender people.
Ponce plans to educate audiences on the high rates of suicides among trans teenagers and the discrimination that they experience around the world in both social and legal settings.
The model has said that she has experienced discrimination and been rejected for fashion events once those in charge learn of her gender identity.
She’s also shared her experiences coming from a “loving and supporting family” but lacked role models. Ponce hopes her story can inspire other trans youth.
“My parents never had to go to school to demand any changes in attitudes, I did it myself,” Ponce said in an interview with The New York Times.
Ponce was crowned Miss Universe Spain six years after the pageant opened up to transgender women.
“All I wanted was to feel how they put on the crown because I was aware that it was a historical moment,” she said recalling the victory to The Times.
Despite the messages of love and support that Ponce has received, she says that transphobia is still a global issue. Some feminist, gay and transgender people have criticised Ponce’s participation in beauty pageants as they are viewed as objectifying women.
“We can’t be hypocritical,” said Ponce, who rejected the criticism and sees her success as a victory for trans people. “Beauty is used to sell everything around us, and beauty can also help us spread a message of equality.”
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